Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cardinal Dolan Ain't Gonna Be Able To Laugh His Way Through This One

The gregarious Cardinal Dolan may be having more than one of these tonight as he's going to have a tough time explaining the following news story.

 I'm pretty tired right now, having just gotten home from work, but this article was in my own paper,  the Helena Independent Record.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know why they published this article, and it goes beyond the fact that it involves Cardinal Dolan.  Right down the road from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the Diocese of Madison WI, where our ex bishop Morlino now resides.  I'm willing to bet lots of money was paid to lots of accused priests in lots of dioceses to let abusive clerics ride off into the sunset and keep the lid on their sexual activities.  I'm not at all surprised that all of Cardinal Dolan's appointments were cancelled today.  I will be really interested to hear how he tries to talk his way out of this one.  I don't think using donations to pay off sexual predators is not exactly what any of us had in mind when we placed our money in the collection basket.

Wis. archdiocese no longer paying priests to leave

 Associated Press | Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:20 pm
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a former priest who received money to leave the ministry following allegations of sexual abuse say that payment and others were a form of charity meant to help men transition to a new life following the priesthood.
The archdiocese acknowledged paying suspected pedophile clergy after an abuse victims' group produced a court document Wednesday that mentioned a 2003 proposal to pay $20,000 to "unassignable priests" who agree to leave the ministry. The document from the archdiocese's bankruptcy proceedings includes minutes from a 2003 meeting of its Finance Council, which included then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now a cardinal and head of the New York archdiocese.
Council members discussed how the church should handle sexual abuse complaints, a possible budget deficit and how to cut costs. The $20,000 payments were among the options mentioned.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests characterizes the payments as a payoff to priests who molested children.
"This was a signing bonus for signing papers that would be sent to the Vatican," SNAP Midwest director Peter Isely said. "They needed to have been fired. You don't pay someone who has committed a criminal act. You fire them. Period."
The archdiocese says similar payments were made to men leaving the priesthood long before allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in the Catholic church. Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the payments were a type of severance pay.
"In a sense, it was a sense of charity to help those men transition from the clergy state to the lay state," Wolf said. The church has a responsibility not only to victims of clergy abuse, but to those accused of abuse, she said.
"The church is not giving this money, saying it's acceptable," Wolf said. "It's our calling as Christians to be forgiving."
It made sense at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal to "move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible" and the money helped the men with the transition, Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said in a letter sent to church members Thursday. But the archdiocese has since ended the payments, he said.
Since the payments have now stopped, said Isely, the SNAP Midwest director, "Is this not a clear admission that they were wrong in the first place?"
"And isn't it time for Cardinal Dolan and his successor, Jerome Listecki, to acknowledge the deep moral wrong of taking Catholic charitable funds and funneling them to priest child molesters?" Isely said in a statement Thursday.
Wolf said she thought the last payments were made two or three years ago, based on archdiocese correspondence. The archdiocese paid out $90,000 to accused priests in the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, according to a letter Listecki sent members that year. It said nine remaining clerics who had been restricted from the ministry because of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor would be notified that financial assistance was ending.
Listecki also said any future reports of sexual abuse would be referred to civil authorities if the accused was still alive and the priest would be immediately removed from ministry.
Jerome A. Wagner said he accepted $20,000 from the Milwaukee archdiocese "because it was time to move on" after he was accused of assaulting a minor. He was never criminally charged and declined to comment on the allegations, but the archdiocese has acknowledged the accusations against him.
"I viewed it as a charity payment on their part to help me get along," Wagner said. "I just viewed it as help for me to readjust to a new way of life."
Wagner said he initiated the process to leave the church with the Vatican and was told by the archdiocese he would receive $10,000 at the beginning of the process and $10,000 when it was over.
Wagner used the money to attend a mortuary school in Illinois. He graduated in 2004 and is a licensed funeral home director in Fond du Lac, the same community where he left the priesthood in 2002.
Because the process of leaving the priesthood can take several years, Wolf said, the payments to accused priests are meant to quickly move them out of the ministry and save costs because a priest's salary alone can be about $55,000 a year. She did not know whether other archdioceses offered similar severances.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops didn't immediately respond to a message left Thursday asking about payments in other archdioceses.
The Milwaukee archdiocese acknowledged in 2006 that it gave $10,000 to former priest Franklyn Becker to help pay his health insurance until he became eligible for Medicare.
Dolan, who was archbishop when the payment was made, has denied allegations it was a payoff. Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York archdiocese, said Thursday that "the cardinal has read and supports the statements that came out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee" and would have no further comment on the issue.
Charles W. Linneman, 44, of Sugar Grove, Ill., is among those who think the payments were inappropriate. He is one of the former parishioners who have sued Becker, claiming they were abused by him. The Associated Press does not usually name victims in sexual abuse cases, but Linneman agreed to be identified.
He said the payment to Becker was the archdiocese's way of keeping the abuse quiet.
"It was just a quick way to wash their hands of him," Linneman said. "They kept him on for all those decades. It was very easy to get rid of him."
Dolan asked then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to defrock Becker in 2003, about two weeks after Becker was arrested in California in connection to a sexual assault there in the 1970s. Becker was removed from the priesthood in 2004.
Linneman said he was an altar boy when he met Becker at St. Joseph's Parish in Lyons in 1980 and was abused by him when he visited Becker following the priest's move to Milwaukee. Becker did not return a call seeking comment.


It's just really amazing how the light of transparency and honesty -and leaking sensitive material- is just snow balling.  I imagine it's times like these when our hierarchy really wishes for the good ole days when they had armies and such things at their disposal to end all this excessive truth telling.  The winds of change continue to howl.


  1. Once again we are seeing that the high ranking church officials do not have the victims or children's best interests at heart. These men will go to great lengths to protect themselves, their images, and the institution.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is

  2. Privileged white males being oh so compassionate to other privileged white outrageous....if only they had shown half as much concern for the children and their families....and I just love the picture of pale Dolan with his beanie and pectoral askew tippling his glass of wine...what an image...poor thing, looks like a very persecuted Catholic prelate to me wouldn't you say?...:-)
    Michael Ferri

  3. I grew up being taught that priests learn in seminary to see themselves as "alter Christus" ("another Christ"). I'm 74 and Catholic. Our local pastor, who's in Cardinal Dolan's generation, hammers away at that image frequently. I hope when the Cardinal does respond to the Times report he'll cite passages in the gospels where Jesus says something in Aramaic analogous to "an inference was false, preposterous and unjust” when He answered questions.

  4. Apparently they were aware of IT and tried to deal with IT. They threw money at IT and IT would not go away. How professional and Christ-like of THEM.

  5. I think these pay-offs are what happens when you have businessmen running the church finances rather than spiritual leaders. This may be an unpopular opinion here, but compared against the golden parachutes some business executives get, $20K is a pittance. [I am of course assuming that the $20K/thrown-away priest is accurate.] And alimony can be significant in the event of a civil divorce - not to mention what a property settlement could be between the Church as one spouse and the nonassignable priest. So the $20K payments, in and of themselves aren't the issue for me. My point is, this is more akin to civil litigation than to criminal. They took care of the 'civil' side of the problem and then covered up the rest.

    If it makes the bishop feel better to call it charity for health insurance or whatever, then fine as far as it goes. Provided of course that the bishop is using considerably more resources to help the victims of those priests heal.

    The fact it was done AS A COVER-UP:
    - on the sly
    - with no accountability
    - no referring the matter to criminal investigation and criminal court proceedings
    This where I have problems. I have to wonder then how this works itself out in the case of a legitimate whistle-blower for example. How easy would it be for the bishop to decide the simplest method of dealing with him is to make the whistle-blower priest nonassignable and throw $20K at him to just leave? This is simply a reflection of the integrity of the bishop and other the church authorities. It is not a pretty reflection either. I will not contribute to the church that uses my funds this way. I will find more moral open methods and entities through which to contribute to the common good.

    1. Well said. Out of curiosity, are you still in the church? I love the faith, but not the institution that runs it.

    2. I consider myself Catholic. I use some of the Catholic devotions, including the Rosary, privately. I get the diocesan newspaper and read it, so I'm still on the roles. I don't attend Mass though except when I consider it a family obligation for special occasions/reasons. In large part because I grew weary of the constant politicizing of Mass in the diocese where I live. I found the tendency to idolize the clerics insulting to my faith. I used to help teach the CCD classes but gave that up long ago. Partly because I found in conscience I simply could no longer present the sexism as required belief, but also because I found I just did not have the skill set to be effective. Like you, there are certain aspects of the faith that I do cherish; but the leadership model is just so... What? Rotten? Authoritarian? Exclusive [and not in a good way]? Unaccountable? Plenty of synonyms could be used here. And all of it abrasive to my faith.

      I've not allied myself with another church group although I've considered it. For the most part, I figure I'd run into more of the same but I'd be more disadvantaged because I don't understand the different culture. So, perhaps better the devil I know. [I attended a funeral service earlier this week in another Christian church for a member of my husband's extended family - oh, the fire and brimstone preached there...] But also because I am simply too introverted to want to share much with too many other people without some pretty strict and enforceable boundaries. Like here on Colleen's blog :)

      So yes, I'm with you. I love the faith, but have serious problems with the institution.

      And not to boast or anything, but I've found one way to contribute to the common good is by doing very part-time volunteer work through the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The whole non-denominational aspect allows me to practice my faith via my works, while still respecting the rights of others to their own beliefs. Not saying the Red Cross is more perfect, but it suits my needs better. While doing some good out there in the world.

    3. T'Pel I'm with you on both your posts. Dolan's actions, and I'm positive he wasn't the only bishop that did this, are typical corporate strategy: Throw money at the problem until it goes away. Unfortunately for him, there aint' enough money to make this problem go away. It's going to cost him far more dearly. It's going to cost him his precious clerical system.

    4. I do hope and pray the clerical system goes through some major upheavals and is opened to the faith. The clerics and those that follow them in the pray-pay-obey paradigm need to learn that while God's Power may be unlimited, clerical power is definitely limited as clerics are still first and foremost human beings and not demi-gods. I had about decided it was unlikely to happen within my lifetime - and I'm only middle-aged. Recent events though have increased my optimism. I have little idea of what shape the church will take after these upheavals, but God will provide.

  6. It's as though the Divine said, "I see your faux religious freedom gambit and raise you- This. POW, right in the credibility!"

    I call it cosmic comeuppance, and just in time!


  7. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has webbed feet, it's a duck. This was a payoff, now matter how Tim Dolan tries to spin it. Instead of channeling Bing Crosby in "Going My Way," Tim is now channeling the Humpty Dumpty: "When I say a word it means exactly what I want it to mean." Regarding his inversion of the religious/civil liberty aspects of Obamacare, Dolan could give George Orwell lessons in "Newspeak." He should stick to sipping his Glenfiddich and leave public statements to those who can tell the truth from BS.

    1. Have you ever heard the poem
      Hummpty Dumpty sat on the wall
      Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
      all the kings horses and all the kings men....

    2. Bill, I have been stewing about this payoff thing for two days. In one very real sense Dolan's payoffs imply the only semi acceptable form of non procreative sex is priests with boys. Unfortunately if you spend any time researching the abuse records, you will find many abusers actually rationalized their activity in just this way. They were still celibate because they were not engaging in vaginal intercourse.

  8. Avery Dulles, the Jesuit convert brother of John Foster Dulles, wrote a book around the time of Vatican II by the title "Models of the Church", in which he lists various models associated with the Church: Mother, Bride of Christ, Military (Onward Christian Soldiers) etc. Apparently he overlooked one: the Whore of Babylon. Gonna take a lot of soap to clean the brothel.

    1. I believe he was John Foster's son

    2. I stand (actually sit) corrected. Was also a Cardinal. Died at 90.

  9. I love your imagery anonymous. It is unfortunate but accurate. dennis

  10. Looks like Cardinal Dolan will be hiking some Irish whiskey down through this...

    Cosmic Butterfly

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